Elana Berkowitz, an MBA student at Harvard, has a piece in today’s WSJ describing life for 2nd year MBA students looking for jobs in the current downturn. Some describe ‘feeling like a punching bag,’ while others are ‘mentally preparing for unemployment’ upon graduation. There are some interesting insights into the changing nature of the economy and the survival strategies that these once optimistic students are employing. From the article,
That’s quite a blow for these soon-to-be holders of M.B.A.s, who normally are among the world’s most courted future graduates. Many HBS students, who came to school with an average of three or four years work experience, have professionally experienced only healthy economic times. Much in the way that so many Americans bet on the equity in their homes appreciating eternally, some students assumed the good times would roll on and failed to fully appreciate the risk inherent with careers in, say, investment banking. Though most students are confident that by graduation they will have secured an offer, for now, many are deferring their great expectations.
Some, believing that government work is safe from the business cycle, and energized by the promise of a new president and a new New Deal, are looking toward public-sector jobs.
Others are warming to nonprofits. Through one business-school program, graduates can apply for one-year management positions at organizations like Teach for America, Lincoln Center and the Gates Foundation. Thirteen percent of the class of 2009 applied, representing a 39% increase in the number of applications since last year.
Though the credit crunch may create daunting hurdles for new businesses seeking financing, a number of HBS students are still planning to start businesses. Allison Floam, a former investment banker and current co-president of the Entrepreneurship Club, says there has been much more interest in the organization than in previous years. Ms. Floam, who intends to start her own tech- media venture, explains that “the current financial crisis has, in a way, made the decision to pursue your own business less risky now that the big enticing bonuses are no longer on the table.”
Is this downturn going increase the number of traditionally risk averse MBAs who choose entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship as their career paths. Will this economic episode create a lifelong change in mindset among these fresh MBAs?
Besides the fact that there are far fewer lush jobs and some MBAs may become entrepreneurs by necessity, the way this has all played out has highlighted that in our ‘post-industrial’ economy, being an employee offers great risk with little control. Alternatively, entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship offer much risk but also much control.